An idiot’s guide to understanding the lockout review

Photograph: Cassandra Hannagan

So, a review of lockout has been announced, but what does it actually mean and how can you get involved?

With the mainstream media’s coverage in the next few months likely to bounce between the perceived drama of returning to the bad old days and optimistic views of the future from the likes of er… me, I thought I would set out in simple terms how the recently announced night time economy review (including lockout) will unfold, and demystify the sometimes opaque workings of parliament in enacting change.

Lockout – why review it now?

Lockout was brought into being by the Liquor Amendment Act 2014 No 3, an act of NSW Parliament that both the major parties supported. And at the recent State Election both main parties agreed with retention of the laws, so we’ll need both sides to get with the program if we want to see lockout repealed. So what’s changed since then? A few things:

a)   immediately after lockout was enacted the streets were still busy, but five years on, going out culture in Sydney is screwed and our once busy public areas are bereft of citizens who pay taxes to keep these spaces mothballed. Even the Daily Telegraph calls Sydney’s nightlife “gloomy” and “sleepy”.

b)   Deloitte have had a stab at quantifying the economic opportunity cost and estimate the amount to be $16bn annually as a result of an underperforming NTE and that’s just in Sydney. Only 23% of spending in Sydney happens at night, compared to 46% in Berlin. Yikes!

c)   We are rated worst in the world for nightlife under Time Out’s global city index of 48 cities surveyed (I know, I am the physician, which is why I’m working hard to heal it!).  

Lastly, the political landscape has also changed and, post election, power is a finely held thing. Minor parties and independents control supply through the upper house, and we are only a bi-election or a scandal away from the government potentially slipping back to a minority position. Also, Keep Sydney Open racked up nearly 2% of the vote, which may have surprised some people; if change doesn’t happen in this term of government, that number will be higher (more young voters) next time. Take all those things together and you have a few good reasons to sort this out now.

That’s why the inquiry has been announced and why I think it’s on an accelerated timetable.

What does the inquiry involve?

Inquiries are defined by “terms of reference”. I’ve set them out below.

That the Committee inquire and report into Sydney’s night time economy, including any measures required to:

(a) maintain and enhance community safety;

(b) maintain and enhance individual and community health outcomes;

(c) ensure existing regulatory arrangements in relation to individuals, businesses and other stakeholders, including Sydney's lockout laws, remain appropriately balanced;

(d) enhance Sydney’s night time economy;

and any other directly relevant matters.

Any interested party can make a submission. Representative organisations like the Night Time Industries Association, the AHA and chambers of commerce for example will lodge them on behalf of their members. But you can sign onto as many submissions as you like, and file your own should you choose (which I would encourage).

When do I need to do that by?

Get your skates on: July 2, 2019. If you can’t make the deadline write to the secretariat at and ask for an extension.

Then what happens?

The committee reads the submissions and invites a range of stakeholders for verbal evidence. The committee also has the discretion to summons people by invite.

Based on the written submissions and the verbal evidence, the committee will produce a report that would normally contain either findings or recommendations or both. The report is due to parliament by September 30, 2019. Because the composition of the committee is across both houses and all churches, there’s a good chance that whatever the report recommends, parliament will enact.

So when’s the earliest lockout could be lifted?

Parliament sits October 15-24, and then Nov 12-28. These are the strike zones for passing new laws.

Wait a minute – didn’t the 24-hour city announcement from the City of Sydney sort all this stuff out?

Nope – the Late Night DCP (or map of fun as we like to call it) is subject to the lockout law in the affected precincts.

So don’t just stand there. If the pro-lockout voices win this argument, we could be looking at another 5 years (at least) of lockouts!. File a submission to NSW parliament by July 2, 2019.

To learn more, contact Michael Rodrigues, MD, Time Out Australia on 02 8239 5990 or michael.rodrigues@timeout.comand connect with him on LinkedIn.

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